LGBTQ St. Pete cyclist joins Team USA for Paralympics

ABOVE: Cyclist Monica Sereda, photo courtesy Sereda.

ST. PETERSBURG | Openly LGBTQ cyclist Monica Sereda will represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo during its cycling competition Aug. 25-Sept. 3.

The Paralympics – international sporting events featuring athletes with a range of disabilities – have run parallel to the Olympics for decades. The program includes sprints, individual pursuits, the 1000m time trial, road races and road time trials for both individuals and teams.

U.S. Paralympics Cycling announced its 14-member team June 20, which includes participants who have won a combined 19 medals from previous games. The athletes earned their spots after a three-pronged qualification process and were selected based on f their results from the 2020 Track World Championship, the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials and the Para-cycling Road World Cup.

It was in the World Cup that Sereda received her first Team USA nomination after winning double gold in her class.  She’s considered a T2, which along with T1 is utilized for athletes with cerebral palsy, neurological conditions or other losses of stability and function who ride tricycles, or trikes.

“My move to Paracycling was unforeseen,” Sereda shares. “I retired from the U.S. Army in 2011 and a year later was involved in an auto accident.”

The veteran served on three continents and retired at the rank of Master Sergeant before sustaining a neck and back fusion from the St. Petersburg collision. She was later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

“It wasn’t noticeable right away,” she recalls. “It took some time and then I couldn’t formulate sentences or conjugate words. I knew something was wrong and I kept having bad headaches – I already had migraines but this was worse. I was lucky to have my military disability and VA disability to keep me going.”

After connecting with the Wounded Warrior Project and Project Hero Pinellas, she started cycling in 2014 to heal both emotionally and physically. Sereda was introduced to the trike the following year.

By 2016, she was invited to a Paracycling Camp at the Olympic Training Center and began racing internationally in 2017. The athlete soon ranked fourth in the world and competed in her first Paracycling World Championships.

“A lot of people assume that to participate in the Paralympics you have to be paralyzed,” Sereda says. “That’s a huge misconception. There are a lot of people who look at me and say I look fine – but not every disability is visible.”

After organizers postponed the 2020 games last year due to COVID-19, Sereda remained focused by undergoing two overdue procedures. The cyclist had surgery on her rotator cuff, which she injured in a 2018 wreck while racing, and had an electrocardiogram implanted to monitor ongoing heart from her auto accident.

“That was the positive aspect about last year and the pandemic,” Sereda says. “That and I also found love.”

Sereda and her partner Samantha recently celebrated their one-year anniversary. The athlete says “she has been wonderful, amazing partner and supporter,” adding that because she’s a psychotherapist, “she’s been a huge blessing because she’s able to understand disabilities.”

As an openly LGBTQ competitor, Sereda says that representation and visibility matter. Not just for her community, but for St. Petersburg and for Tampa Bay at large.

“There are quite a few Olympian and Paralympian athletes here,” she notes. “I don’t think people know that.”

Sereda will depart for Tokyo Aug. 22 and will race between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3 at Mount Fuji Speedway. The Paralympics are expected to air in the U.S. via NBCUniversal after the network announced its record 1,200 of programming for the games in February.

NBC’s commitment includes television coverage across NBC, NBC Sports and The Olympic Channel. Content will also stream on Peacock, the NBC Sports app and

“Being military, I’ve always represented the country,” Sereda says. “I’m also competitive as an athlete and person, so competing for the U.S. is just something I’ve always wanted to do. Representing my country when I was in the military, but also now going to the games, it’s a dream come true.”

Visit to learn more about this year’s games. To learn more about Team USA and Monica Sereda, visit For sponsorship opportunities, email

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